The Straits Times
Published on Jan 23, 2013

Deploy extra housemen to ease A&E queues


MOST non-emergency patients who seek treatment at the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of public hospitals do so out of necessity during non-office hours, when polyclinics and most private clinics are closed.

Hence, it would be unfair to impose a surcharge on them ("Easing A&E queues: Try carrot-and-stick approach" by Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan; last Saturday).

The existing comparatively higher charges at A&E departments for treating relatively mild illnesses are already a deterrent.

Instead of a surcharge, another way of easing A&E queues, so that emergency cases can be treated promptly, is to deploy additional medical officers and housemen at the department to cater solely for those patients with minor ailments.

The incremental costs of such an arrangement should be minimal since the required supporting services like patient registration, triage and payment collection remain unchanged.

Besides easing the queue, this arrangement may be another avenue for housemen to gain valuable hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating patients, as they can readily consult and learn from their partnering medical officers during their stint.

Such an arrangement would thus benefit not only the patients but also the housemen involved in the scheme.

Ng Chee Kheon